between 2010-2019 i aged 19-29. here are the ups, downs, and insights.
sophomore in college at Georgia State University. after barely getting out of high school i had a 4.3 GPA and was living in my grandfather’s extra bedroom about an hour north of Atlanta.
i chased opportunity and worked for Red Bull and Microsoft as a campus rep. i chaired the student programming board and helped spend millions of dollars producing concerts, murder mystery dinners, parties, etc.
sentiment: “maybe i can work for a big corporation and buy a house.“
my then-girlfriend booked a surprise dinner at Fox Bros BBQ for my 21st birthday. my friend Marianne came and bought me a gin & tonic. this was the first drink of my life… i waited till i was 21 to try alcohol.
while i never missed school or work because of it, i probably had 1-2 Kraken (rum) + DDP (diet Dr Pepper) daily after class and more on weekends. took my first and last programming class and thought it was impossible.
at work i continued the hustle, now interning at CampusMovieFest and Teach for America. i also started a couple small companies, Mylar Designs and Partipig.
sentiment: “i need a full-time job.“
in February i co-opened a Vietnamese restaurant, We Suki Suki (long story). in May i graduated from school with a marketing degree.
throughout 2010-2012 i moonlit with a few marketing agencies and did over 100 “activations” for dozens of brands like Coca-Cola, Samsung, Paul Frank, Disney, Frito-Lay, and Cartoon Network.
i needed to make a decision: continue the experiential marketing path, transitioning from boots on the ground to office worker, or explore new pastures. i chose option 2, and had exactly two interviews.
interview 1 was with MetLife, to be a financial advisor. they’ll hire anyone for this role, because your job is to squeeze money out of your personal network. how did i learn this? because my “homework” following our interview was to fill out a worksheet with everyone i know and their contact information. i passed.
interview 2 was with athenahealth, to be a traveling implementation specialist. my friend Greg hooked it up, and he ended up working for them for awhile. after a few rounds i was rejected. i don’t recall why. but it stung.
my friend Ty had a birthday in the fall, so a few of us booked a cabin in north Georgia. while there i drafted a short manuscript, Professionalism in Flip Flops, then raised $1,500 on Kickstarter to commission an editor, cover designer, and barcode.
around Thanksgiving 2012 i published the book on Amazon, and heard about a new site for startups called AngelList. i had just heard about startups from a guy named Sanjay who i met at 200 Peachtree where i ran audio-visual.
anyway, Angellist seemed kind of like LinkedIn so i made a profile and applied to some jobs. one of those companies saw my recently published book, hired me, and a few weeks later i moved to NYC to work at a Techstars funded startup, ShuttleCloud.
sentiment: “i am an adult.”
i was team lead on a Windows phone campaign for around 10 weeks and they paid me something like $1,800 /week between Nov-Dec 2012. i saved most of this and invested in Tesla stock around $35 /share in early 2013.
for a few months i lived in Bushwick, Brooklyn and was at the office from ~9a – 8p, learning the ropes and adjusting to life in a new place where i didn’t know anyone. i actually wrote a song about it.
around my birthday (March) i moved to Harlem. since i kept in touch with marketing agencies i worked for in Atlanta, they threw me more Coca-Cola gigs, which i did on weekends in the Upper West Side.
one early morning i was running a ~100 person PR stunt that E! Network hired me to manage, to promote a new reality show about olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte.
our task was to make a bunch of signs with phrases like “swim to me, Ryan” and hold them up outside 30 Rock’s iconic Today Show. we were ready to rumble, until breaking news came in that the Boston Bomber brothers were on the run and a live manhunt was underway. it was April 19, 2013. our stunt was cancelled and i made it to my office by 9am.
months later i had lunch with a guy i worked with at CampusMovieFest and asked him, should i quit my job? he said no. so i stayed.
sentiment: “making money is hard. NYC is expensive. is this real life?“
in March i moved again, to my own studio on 25th / 3rd avenue. my local train station had a bodega inside it so i felt like i made it.
i began working in San Francisco and renting my spot on Airbnb. whenever someone booked it for 7+ days (my requirement) i booked a roundtrip JFK <> SFO flight and slept at the office.
sentiment: “to move up in life, move laterally.“
early year, same deal as before. i quit the new job and began freelancing again, this time with friends. we put a “bow” on it, calling ourselves Sprinkle Labs and operating like a marketing agency.
we peaked at $50k MRR and threw a 3-day hackathon in Detroit. we started building our own products. after i got upset with my co-founder about a feature delay he
said screamed “you don’t know s*** about technology!” he was right.
so i left the company, it imploded, and went to Thailand to learn to code. shortly after i was recruited to a VC firm in San Francisco.
sentiment: “one step forwards and two steps backwards.“
we started Fomo in March and launched in August. although it was growing we paid ourselves $0. i continued working full-time for the fund and then for a portfolio company.
i let my 1 year lease expire and moved back to NYC. deleted LinkedIn.
year was a blur. not sure why. all companies growing, getting smarter and richer. in love with my new apartment. sort of retired.
did a “friend tour” around the country. recorded a new album and performed around the country. spent 6 weeks in Los Angeles at a bootcamp for music production. deleted Instagram.
sentiment: “i should get married.”
proposed to my girlfriend. eloped. decided to travel the world together before settling down in Austin, her hometown.
stopped hanging out with friends. cancelled my cell phone plan and told no one. stopped checking my personal inbox.
sentiment: “what do i want to be when i grow up?“
began studying Korean because work is no longer challenging. got in shape. started thinking in decades vs years.
sentiment: “i miss NYC.”
i’ve always shared (and then achieved) goals publicly. this year is no different. a few from my library:
- sell Fomo
- invest in more real estate
- draft manuscript for my next book (on competition)
- 1 new “muse” business (Korean board game, course, etc)
- write/record my best song (25+ done, all mediocre)
these aren’t all my goals but they’re the ones i’m willing to share today.
on thinking in decades… by 2030 i want to retire (again), stay in one place for at least 3 months per year, continue living without a phone number, never check email, and speak more languages.
professionally i’m content. i don’t want to manage > 10 people and i don’t need to make > $1.5mm /year. i need Vans, v-necks, and steak.
i’m lucky, owe all my success to God, and life is a game. go play